Introduction: How to Clean Your Car Like a Pro.

Picture of How to Clean Your Car Like a Pro.

Your car is where you spend a large part of your week, commuting to and from work, getting groceries, taking little Jimmy to football practice and waiting to take him home. Whether you drive a Mustang Mach 1 or a 1998 Black Honda Accord Ex with Grey cloth interior with stains from the previous owner's children, a nice cleaning a waxing can make any car easy on the eyes. It may also make that hour long commute a little bit more enjoyable. This guide will show you how to clean your car like a professional, and help you keep it shining until you find the time to do so again. There are some fundamental facts you need to know before beginning to take care of your vehicle, and now it's time to learn some! For convenience, I have ordered these steps in the way that I clean my car, and I would generally recommend keeping them in this order. It works very well.

The procedures described in the following three steps are normally beneficial to your vehicle. However, if any damage occurs to your vehicle from following this instructable, the author cannot be held responsible.

Step 1: Exterior Cleaning

Picture of Exterior Cleaning

So you wanna get that great factory color to rebel against the dirt and grime covering your car and regain control? Well it needs a little help. This is where you come in. Begin with a nice clean bucket, a hose, a good car soap and a sponge (or other soft scrubbing utensil). I always begin my rinsing out the bucket to make sure there is nothing in there that would add scratches to my car. After that, read the label on your bottle of car soap for the specific amount to add. Once you have added the soap to the bucket, fill the bucket with water. I usually do this in a two step process. I begin by swirling the soap with the "Jet" setting on my hose head. Then, once the suds have built up, I move the hose head into the water and get a good amount of water going down under the suds.

Now that you have the perfect amount of suds and water, it is time to commence washing your car.


As long as the day is cool and overcast, begin by rinsing down your car. It doesn't have to be extremely thorough, but start at the top of your car and rinse down along the sides. This is to remove any large particles of sediment that could scratch your paint when you begin scrubbing. It also helps to cool the body of your car, which will keep the water from evaporating more rapidly than usual.

When you begin washing your car, keep in mind the zones of washing, shown in the pictures below. Begin washing by rinsing the roof of your car with water, absorb some suds/water in your sponge or rag, and begin washing the roof in tight scrubbing circles. Go row by row across the roof section of your car. Keep the scrubbing rows parallel and overlapping, to prevent any gaps of uncleanliness. Once you are finished with the roof section of your car, rinse it thoroughly to remove the soap you used to scrub the dirt off.

Repeat the above paragraph, going section by section, top to bottom on your car. For me it goes: Roof>Windows and Roof Supports> Top of Hood and Upper Quarter panels> Middle of Doors and Trunk> Front Bumper, Lower Quarter Panels, Lower Doors, and Back Bumper. There is a reason beyond organization for this method of washing. When you drive your car, you pick up the heaviest and largest sediment on the frontal/lower surfaces of your car. You collect the lighter and smaller sediment on the Rear/Upper surfaces of your car.

Finally, when replenishing your soap supply in your sponge, wring it out anywhere except over your water bucket. If you do wring it out over your water bucket you will put all of the dirt you just scrubbed of straight into your water. Thus, when you scrub again, your putting dirt back on your car.

Step 2: Interior Cleaning

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While your waiting for the exterior to dry, you can clean the interior. I always begin this with an exodus of all extraneous materials from my cabin area. For me, this means anything from clothes to textbooks, old notes to old breakfast. Whatever you need to remove, remove it. Then move in with the vacuum cleaner and suck out all of the dirt and grime from everywhere. This goes for the dash, the floor, the seats, even the trunk. Take out the floor mats and vacuum those and and floor beneath them.

Once I finish vacuuming everything, I usually make use of some vinyl moisturizing wipes made by armor-all. I wipe down every vinyl surface in my car. This product is something to consider purchasing if you live in a hot area where your vinyl bakes while you're at work or school (like Florida, it gets ungodly hot here in the summer).

At this point you can wipe down your windows interior and exterior with any type of cleaner you have. I use ClearVue auto cleaner, and it works very well. Afterwards, you can add RainX to your windshields if you so desire.

By now, the exterior of your car should be nice and dry. If it is not, take a break.

Step 3: The Finishing Touches

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The finishing touches are what makes the difference between a cleaning your car, and cleaning your car like a pro. This is where you break out the wax of your choice and go the extra mile for things that regular human passengers wouldn't even notice in the awareness portions of their brains. But subconsciously, they're like "Ohhh, this guy or gal cleans his or her car like a pro." So what do I do for this subconscious approval, you ask? This is it.


I begin with the front section of my car, and see how far I get. Typically, night hits once I've done the hood, both quarterpanels, and the front bumper. I do however wax without the aid of a machine. If you do, you'll probably make it further.

As with washing, do your car in logical sections. Top/Bottom or Front/Back doesn't really matter when waxing. I try to do it in the areas that will receive the most wear and tear first, such as, the front hood/bumper and the drivers side. Read the instructions on the back of your bottle of wax to learn how, I will not discuss that here. Once you finish the outer body of your car, go crazy. I wax the inner door areas that are painted metal, but that's just because on a 1998 Accord they are especially noticeable. If you use your trunk a lot, wax the metal on the underside of the roof of the trunk. Use it anywhere you want, within reason. I wouldn't wax door hinges or anywhere inside the engine compartment, because I do not know if there would be any poor consequences. Use your head.

With the correct products you can also shine up your tires at this point or gloss your rims.

Step 4: Conclusion

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If you have completed the preceding steps to your car, enjoy the pay off! Driving around in a nice clean car is great. Especially when you are driving around passengers and receive complements on your work. If you don't feel like going the extra mile (or hours), don't do step three. All three steps usually take me a day, with breaks for lunch and the hottest parts of the day. If you get really into cleaning your car, consider upgrading your cleaning utensils, or trying out other waxes. Otherwise, just enjoy your hard work.


vidyasagars1 (author)2016-06-07

These are great tips for washing your car. Thanks for sharing.

RobS94 (author)2016-03-22

I would love to see more pics in this article.

Its pretty helpful though

AMG Mercedes-Benz, mint condition -</a>
anne.cunningham.589 (author)2015-03-03

sorry but this isn't what i would call detailing a car how about using some tar & glue after its dry to remove tar and other crap that won't come off with detergent etc and instead of waiting for the car to dry use a chamois cloth or a proper microfibre cloth thus leaving no water marks all over the car as it dries in, air blowers, polishers and use foam based cleaners on the vinyl and after all that i still wouldn't consider it finished what about engine bays? door sills? parcel shelves (after many valets i noticed not one "pro" hadn't done mine) anyone wanting to open a valeting business needs to have a passion for it and it doesn't start overnight everything is trail and error and there is a lot out there trying to do this so you need to be ready to be better than anyone, i agree with the washing the cars in sections but not with a sponge nor polishing by hand i could fully detail 2 cars per day, advice buy a pressure washer and a buffer but don't buy cheap, then you will see your car in all its glory

Dakota Joel98 (author)2014-08-02

Nice very instructive


HowDoYou_com (author)2014-06-19

Here are some more great suggestions on How To Clean Your Car like a Pro...

BethBy (author)2014-05-22

Nice write-up. There's a piece that has a few additional suggestions. Take a look:

Guyzer-36 (author)2013-09-05

Good guide only thing I would change is the sponge,no where for grit to go so ends up scratching car ,I prefer a noodle mitt doesn't scratch car as grit is drawn in and use 2 buckets one with shampoo and one clean water for washing out mitt on a regular basis. :)

rpillott (author)2013-07-22

Thanks for the washing instructions. It makes a lot of sense to do it in those sections and order.

BigJames (author)2012-09-11

I recently found this stuff called Water Armour ( that works fantastic for keeping your car clean. I have no idea how it works, but it keeps dirt and road grime and everything from sticking to the car. It works awesome and has saved me a lot of time cleaning it all the time because my car is white. I would definitely recommend it!

iq0100 (author)2012-02-21

SO. uhhhhhhhmmmm using this product, you start off with a VW and end up with a Honda. What happens if I start up with a mini from 1971, do I end up with a Mercedes 500sl 2012?

Warlrosity (author)2009-08-29

What a HORRIBLE lamburgerini

MonkaySquad (author)Warlrosity2009-10-19

I agree, its ugly.

Warlrosity (author)MonkaySquad2009-10-22


hoihoi151 (author)Warlrosity2010-08-07

first its spelt lamborghini. and that beautiful car is the reventon, modeled off the F111 fighter jet. This legend of a car is almost as fast as a tornado jet fighter. 0-100km/hr in 3.4 seconds. its fastest recorded speed is 356 km/hr They only made 20. and an additional 9 roadsters. This car is so fast its primary gauge isnt a speedometer its a g-force gauge. Lamborghini used to be a silly looking car with no real purpose. this is a monster that wants to eat the road it drives on. if you dont like this car you have something very wrong with u. please consult a doctor (author)hoihoi1512012-01-02

I agree with HoiHoi! This is one beautiful car and an amazing example of quality engineering!

Warlrosity (author)hoihoi1512010-08-08

Well, Thats uncalled for.

I must agree with Mr. Pug. Twenty too many made in this day in age. I liked the movie "World's Fastest Indian" but that is a bygone era (what is amazing is that Kiwi's speed record still stands). To me, it would be embarrassing being seen driving it or getting out of it. It would seem to me to attract a lot of glares. Would've been cool in the '80's in another movie, the Canonball Run...I guess. To each their own, but it just screams BP/Exxon/Chevron/Texaco to me ;-)

If I knew what exxon and texaco were. Id agree

79ford (author)Warlrosity2010-02-09

that's a coool lamburgerini

BoondockSaint (author)Warlrosity2009-08-29


Warlrosity (author)BoondockSaint2009-08-30


JeremyA (author)2011-05-08

I want to first start off by saying this is very good. You seem to know what you are doing. However I would advise against using armorall. It has chemicals in it that will eventually break down the vinyl. You can see proof of this a lot of times in cars from the 80's or 90's that where lovingly taken care of however have a lot of dash spider-webbing. (not cracking all cars can eventually crack due to heat) They are also greasy and attract dust making it necessary to do it all the time. I personally use Mequires non-greasy formula. it does a great job and doesnt make your dash look "fake-shiney". Another thing I like to do is use a clay bar. They are expensive and there is no way around the fact that they are overpriced. However they will make a big difference in the feel of your car. As an experiment, take a cigarette wrapper (celophane) and with three fingers inside of it, rub it on the surface of your car. You will feel HUGE imperfections and dust particles all over the paint. After properly using a clay bar it will be very smooth. Once you coat it with a good wax ( I use meguires gold class paste) you will get that slippery surface that is so shiny light will barely stick to it.

shinycarguy (author)2010-12-29

I thought I was the only one who waxed door jams.........

mattthomas992003 (author)2010-12-26

to properly dry the car, use a shammi then dry what the shammi left behind with 5 to 10 microfiber towels then you wont have any little bitty water marks

sephiroth67 (author)2010-09-10

I may touch myself to the photo of the reventon.

Thanks a ton for this 'ible. I'm thinking of starting a mobile detailing service, and this is legitimately a great guide, even for someone that knows how to clean.

nax (author)2010-08-22

This may seem like a frivolous 'ible, but driving a clean car makes your whole world feel less grungy. Thanks.

79ford (author)2010-04-14

cool VW (author)2010-03-20

 Good instructable.
Another good way to keep from scratching your clear coat is to have a rinse bucket and a soap bucket.  Just clean water in the rinse bucket.   Now rinse out your towel between sections. You will be surprised at how dirty that water will get. 

frankfarms (author)2009-07-02

The best way to clean your dash, in my opinion, is to first vacuum it with the bristle attachment . Then wipe all of the dash with Armor All Dash Wipes. After that, spray with Meguiars Quik Interior Detailing Spray. Wipe dry and your done. P.S. It leaves your car lemmony fresh.

automd (author)frankfarms2010-02-21

I love using Meguiar's detailing spray. I have been using it since I had my car. It is very easy to use and it leaves your car smelling fresh and clean.

jon_murph (author)2009-08-14

1 thing to add gojo or any orange based hand cleaner works great on vinyl or leather (only way to get it clean sometimes) it is usually found in the automotive section or maybe your garage.

Yerboogieman (author)2009-07-13

My car has enough miles to make 2 cars "High Mileage."

Or 3.

BoondockSaint (author)2009-06-02

I'm sorry, I cannot fathom how to specifically respond to your question due to it's lack of elaboration. Therefore, I will try to answer all possible intended responses. Got a car wash? (Sarcastic) Yes, there are plenty of car washes around, few go to the lengths and techniques described in this instructuable. That is, unless you are willing to dish out booku bucks at the detailer. Got a car wash? (Serious) No, I am not in the possession of, nor employed by, a car wash.

a new teacher at my school moved in from North Carolina, and was in disbelief when she found out that people actually wash their own cars, instead of taking them to the carwash

SkateboardingForLife (author)2009-06-18

if only i had a lamborghini, but alas all i have is a ford taurus

scooterchic (author)2009-06-04

good tips...I LOVE your car!! Did you do the work yourself?

Hahaha, thanks. I had it professionally detailed when I first bought it, and since then I've tried to emulate the results as best I can.

lemonie (author)2009-05-31

Have you got a camera? L

BoondockSaint (author)lemonie2009-05-31

Nope, I only have a film camera. Sorry, but I think the images I supplied are sufficient to supplement the instructions.

lemonie (author)BoondockSaint2009-05-31

Yeah it's a bit of a drag when you've only got film. The images may supplement the instructions, but it would be good to see images showing the techniques. L

BoondockSaint (author)lemonie2009-06-01

Yeah, that is true. Next time I make an instructable, I'll try to borrow a digital camera from a friend.

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